When photographs meant something: Meet Cayuga
County’s most prominent early photographers
If you go
WHAT: “Faces of Cayuga County”
WHEN: Open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; exhibit continues through Dec. 29
WHERE: Cayuga Museum, 203 Genesee St., Auburn
COST: Suggested admission $3
INFO: Call (315) 253-8051 or visit cayugamuseum.org
AUBURN | Kirsten Wise, curator at the Cayuga Museum, said tangible photographs have their advantages, even in our digital age.
Just what those advantages are, she said, can be learned of first-hand at the museum’s latest exhibit: “Faces of Cayuga County,” a display of hundreds of photographs of, or by, county individuals.
The exhibit opened Nov. 1 and will continue through Dec. 31.
Some of these photographed individuals are more well-known, such as Auburn painter George Clough.
Others are currently “unknown,” as per the museum’s descriptions of some of the photographs.
Either way, Wise said the photos give a glimpse into the county’s past from the photo itself, or the photographer behind the lens.
“I think that there’s something that’s really great about having a tangible photograph,” she said. “It feels like actually having a piece of history in its physical form more than its digital copy.”
Four photographers, each of whom were based in Auburn at various points in their lives, were chosen by the museum to be featured in the exhibit: H. Seymour Squyer, Joseph French, William H. Ernsberger and Emil J. Kraemer.
H. Seymour Squyer
Wise said Squyer must have been one of the more popular photographers in the area, due to the number of photographs in the museum’s collection.
She said they have collected hundreds of photographs by Squyer, who was born in Hannibal back in 1848. His ties to Auburn lie with the locale of his photo studio, which he based at 77 Genesee St. in 1870.
Squyer later partnered with another photographer, Fred Wright, and based a studio, for Squyer and Wright, at 130 Genesee St.
“(Partnership) is typical in photography back then,” she said. “For the most part, the core guys that we are featuring worked by themselves for the majority of their careers, but they did work with other people for short periods of time.”
One of the notable figures Squyer photographed in his career was Clough, the Auburn painter well-known for his landscapes and portraits in the 19th century, Wise said.
Squyer also became well-known for using his photography skills in legal disputes, and continued the craft until his death in 1905.
French was an on-again, off-again photographer for about 30 years. When he was not a photographer, the Auburn man was a milliner: a hat manufacturer.
To be a milliner was a complementary trade with photography for sure, Wise said. French also happened to be heavily involved in the community, serving on the state fireman’s committee in 1880 and the Cayuga County board in 1928.
But when he found the time, French took photographs, two of which featured individual shots of children. There are two separate shots presumably, Wise said, from two separate times.
Despite this, the two individual children are posed the same in each for, Wise said, unknown reasons.
French died in 1934, shortly after serving on the Cayuga County board.
William H. Ernsberger
Like Squyer, Ernsberger was also presumably very popular, Wise said, given the number of photographs the museum has from him in its gallery.
The Trumansberg man, born in 1844, moved to Auburn in 1865 and established a prosperous photographic career in Auburn that spanned more than 60 years.
Two of Ernsberger’s photographs actually have roots in the Cayuga Museum’s property. He photographed portraits of two sisters individually — Sarah J. and Anna E. McComb.
The McCombs were mothered by Anna McComb Sr., who, Wise said, lived in the Cayuga Museum as a housekeeper back when it was a house and not a museum. Wise said the property was built in 1836 and used for many years as a home.
Like most of the other photographers, Ernsberger based himself on Genesee Street, operating a studio with his son, Fred, until his death in 1941, according to the museum’s records.
Emil J. Kraemer
Unlike Ernsberg, Kraemer’s career was rather brief in comparison — a little more than 20 years in length.
He’s originally from Dobbs Ferry, and moved to Auburn when he was 9. Kraemer started as a worker for the Auburn Daily Advertiser with photography on the side, but demands for his photographs forced him to quit to focus on camerawork.
Interestingly enough, Wise said, the only photographs of Kraemer’s in the museum’s collection are group shots — such as a shot of railroad workers, or delivery men.
Wise said it’s impossible to identify since the photograph was found in museum collection without notes or paperwork.
“A lot of the other ones that are in the collection are solo shots in a studio setting, but most of the ones we have from him are of groups outside of a studio,” she said.
Kraemer lived and worked on 176 E. Genesee St. until 1925, when he died of a heart attack while driving.
Original post found at www. auburnpub.com